Submitted by DRCIL

KAPUSKASING – International Day of Persons with Disabilities falls on the 3rd of December each year, with the aim of promoting empowerment, and helping to create real opportunities for people with disabilities. Each year carries a theme – The theme for this year’s IDPD is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.

The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation.

The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.

One of the largest achievements being celebrated this year is the passing of Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 benefits all Canadians, especially those with disabilities, by helping create a barrier-free Canada.

Evidence and experience proves that when barriers to inclusion are removed people are empowered to participate fully in society which benefits their entire community. Barriers are a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for everyone.

The annual IDPD serves as an important reminder to us all of the determination shown on a daily basis by people with disabilities in their quest for inclusion and equal treatment. And that is why we use this special day to recognize the contributions of our amazing volunteers.

They give back to the community by supporting a non-profit organization that promotes independent living, accessibility and inclusion. Their support as a volunteer to this Centre helps us to achieve our goals.

This year, the Centre has recognized volunteer André Bélair by adding him to our Recognition Tree.

André has been an integral part of the Centre since his induction to the Board of Directors in 2003. Bringing insight and wisdom to the Independent Living Philosophy, André brought his vision of Independent Living to the Centre when he was appointed Vice Chairperson in 2008 and Chairperson to the Board of Directors in 2009.

André embodies Independent Living and has been an advocate for people living with disabilities and their families in the community. His contribution to the community has been profound – through the countless volunteer hours and commitments with numerous local groups and non-profit organizations.

André has consistently demonstrated his devotion to the organization through his ongoing commitment and contributions on every level. Through strategic planning, board governance, fundraising initiatives, accessibility audits, workshop facilitation, project management, maintenance, construction, and day-to-day problem solving, no job has been too big or too small for the Centre’s super hero, André.

André has been, and always will be, an essential part of the Disability Resource Centre, its operations and overall growth and success. The Centre would not be where it is today without André’s vision, dedication and long-term commitment.

“The donation of our volunteers’ time to our Centre has an impact on this Centre and people with disabilities,” said Disability Resource Centre for Independent Living Executive Director, Jennifer Marchand. “So for this, they should all be very proud of themselves. We celebrate and thank each and every one of them.”